World Water Day, coming up on Wednesday, is an annual event
first established by the United
Nations in 1992 to focus on the importance of freshwater and to
encourage actions to provide clean drinking water while reducing
water-borne illness around the world.
This year’s theme, waste water, was formulated into a question
that creates a double meaning. It can be either “Why waste water?”
or “Why wastewater?” The first question emphasizes the water-supply
issues associated with World Water Day. The second emphasizes the
closely related health aspects of sanitation. For a serious
discussion of these two questions, listen to the talk on YouTube by
Guy Ryder, director general of the International Labour
Organization and chairman of UN-Water.
Rainfall in most of Kitsap County was fairly normal or slightly
above average until April, when the spring rains basically stopped.
The lack of rain has led to extreme conditions, as anyone can see
by looking at the dry vegetation across Western Washington.
The total rainfall has now fallen below normal in most areas of
Kitsap County, as shown by the maps on this page. That
below-average condition is unlikely to change without some
uncharacteristic rainstorms between now and the end of the “water
year” on Oct. 1.
The Kitsap Peninsula, like islands throughout Puget Sound, does
not rely on snowpack for its water supplies, so a shortage of
drinking water is unlikely. The one exception might be residents
who rely on private shallow wells, some of which could start to dry
up by the end of summer, according to Bob Hunter, manager of Kitsap
Public Utility District.
Deeper aquifers used by most major water systems on the
peninsula are not affected by a single year’s weather. It takes
time for the water to trickle down to the deeper layers, where
groundwater levels reflect the pattern of rainfall occurring over
The soils and topography vary so greatly from one place to
another that nobody can say how soon shallow wells will be
affected. Some wells depend on springs or surface infiltration,
while others tap into aquifers with adequate supply. The rate of
withdrawal, including the number of homes in a given area, can have
an effect on water supply.
Although the deeper aquifers are not likely to be affected this
year, what if we are at the beginning of a dry period that lasts
three years or more? I would hate to look back on my current water
usage and regret not saving water when I had the chance. To a
varying extent, conserving water can protect our water supplies and
help the overall ecosystem.
In addition to affecting aquifers, the lack of rain has reduced
streamflows in creeks and rivers to below-normal rates throughout
the county. The resulting low flows could affect coho salmon, which
spend a year in freshwater. The fall salmon migration will be
mostly affected by whether rains show up to saturate the soils and
raise stream levels in September and October.
Bob Hunter says the per-capita use of water has been dropping,
but he’s not sure how much of the change is a result of personal
choices and how much is a result of new kitchen and bathroom
fixtures required by plumbing codes. Low-flush toilets and low-flow
faucets can really make a difference, he said.
People use large amounts of water on their lawns, so one
long-term effort is to reduce the amount of grass and thirsty
vegetation that homeowners maintain while improving the soil to
increasing its water-holding capacity.
“This year, people are irrigating a lot earlier than they were
in the past,” Bob told me. “That has to have an impact, especially
if the summer stays dry the whole way.”
The key to protecting future water supplies on the Kitsap
Peninsula is for everyone to change their habitats over time by
finding ways to use less water. If people understand the
trickle-down theory of aquifers, they might be less inclined to
take our water for granted.
Jimmy Fallon and Bill Gates together make an interesting
combination. One is about finding new ways to solve serious world
problems, while the other is looking for new ways to surprise and
Bill gates recently challenged Jimmy Fallon to the “ultimate
taste test” involving two glasses of water. Jimmy would try to tell
the difference between bottled water and sewage effluent from an
innovative treatment plant built in Sedro Woolley, south of
Bellingham. As you’ll see from the video, there was a bit of
In his blog,
“Gates Notes,” Bill Gates describes the Omniprocessor, designed
by Janicki Bioenergy of Washington state. A video on that page
(shown here) demonstrates how the processor works, with an ending
in which Gates drinks water that had been in the form of human
feces just minutes before.
Gates makes the most of this humorous but deadly serious issue,
knowing that one of the greatest health threats in the developing
world is contaminated drinking water — and that a machine could
help solve the problem.
The Omniprocessor burns dried human waste as fuel to dry more
waste as it comes into the plant, providing an endless supply of
fuel that can be burned at a very high temperature, thus
controlling air emissions. The drying process produces steam, which
can run a generator for electricity. The water vapor is cooled and
goes through a final filter to produce clean drinking water.
I’ve read many articles written about the Omniprocessor over the
past month, but Mark Stayton of the
Skagit Valley Herald wrote the most informative piece I’ve
A working prototype is scheduled to be fabricated this spring in
Dakar, Senegal, West Africa, and go into use soon after. Graphics
and photos are available on the Omniprocessor home
I’ll be interested to see how this entire operation works in
practice. Not much is said about getting the waste to the machine.
Apparently, some locations have trucks that pump out latrines and
then dump the untreated waste someplace else, risking contamination
to groundwater or surface water. Transportation of the waste/fuel
might be less of an issue in cities with inadequate
sewage-treatment plants, but I don’t know how efficient trucks
would be in rural areas, where roads are often a problem.
Anyway, I will try to keep you informed about the Omniprocessor
and similar technology in the months to come.
The on-and-off rains over the past two weeks are nearly perfect
for both spawning salmon and for recharging shallow groundwater
supplies, experts say.
For October, total rainfall ranges from about 5 inches at
Hansville to 12 inches at Holly, according to rain gauges managed
by the Kitsap Public
Utility District. Fortunately, those rains have not been
delivered to us in only a few days.
The intermittent nature of October rains has allowed the streams
to maintain their flows without flooding. They’ve also allowed
infiltration into the ground without excessive runoff.
“It is the good kind of rain,” said Bob Hunter, interim manager
of Kitsap PUD. “We’ve had a couple of days when we’ve had 2-plus
inches, but we haven’t seen the streams flash.”
In other words, the streams have not risen excessively fast. Bob
attributes that to how dry the ground was before the rains began.
Soils were able to absorb much of the early rainfall before
stormwater runoff began to increase. Pauses between the rainstorms
allowed more of the water to soak into the ground.
“It just goes to show you the variability that we have around
here,” Bob told me.
October marks the beginning of the 2015 “water year.” Although
we are just a month into the start of the year, the rainfall has
been closely tracking all-time highs at some rain gauges —
including Holly, which has been monitored since 1999. (See charts
Meanwhile, the rain pattern in October was nearly perfect for
salmon, said Jon Oleyar of the Suquamish Tribe, who walks the East
Kitsap streams to count migrating salmon as they arrive.
“It seems like we’ve had storms coming in every couple of days,
so they are not right on top of each other,” Jon said. “That gives
the streams some time to recede.”
When there is not adequate flow, the salmon often wait for the
streams to rise. On the other hand, too much flow can wash salmon
eggs out of the streambed.
Last week’s rains got the chum salmon moving into most of the
East Kitsap streams, Jon told me.
“I checked Chico Creek on Wednesday, and there were almost
11,000 fish in there and going up about as far as they can get,” he
A good escapement for the Chico Creek system is between 12,000
and 15,000 chum, and there is still more than a month left —
assuming a typical timing of the run, he said. But things are
looking a little different this year, he noted, and the bulk of the
run may have arrived already.
One indication that timing could be different this year is that
Gorst Creek already has a fair number of chum salmon — perhaps 500
— yet the Gorst Creek run usually comes in later and continues well
Is it possible that all or most of the salmon runs are coming in
early? It’s a question that only time will answer.
Jon told me that he’s a bit water-logged at the moment, trying
to count fish in the rain with the streams running high.
“I’m pretty happy about it,” Jon said. “I have my fish up where
they need to be, but it’s just hard to count them right now. If
you’re a fish, this is really working for you.”
In the charts below, found on the Kitsap PUD’s website, you can
see that October’s rainfall has been tracking the record high
rainfall at these stations. Of course, the “water year” has barely
begun, so anything can happen. (Click on images to enlarge.)
I’m posting this “Amusing Monday” entry two days early, because
today is officially World Water
Day, as declared by the United Nations.
I guess the timing is not that important. After all, I don’t
expect anyone to go out and march in a World Water Day parade, or
fire off water pistols in celebration, or even drink water in
excess and then sleep in the next morning. But if you are inclined
to celebrate, you may as well celebrate the essential value of
I’m on vacation this week, so I thought I’d offer the “Amusing
Monday” from last year at this time. I posted the following on
Dec. 24, 2012. It includes a Matt Damon video from the year
before and some Christmas riddles from four years ago.
Last year, actor Matt Damon dressed as Santa Claus and allowed
children to tell him what they wanted for Christmas. All the while,
he kept trying to convince them that what they really wanted was a
stainless-steel or plastic water bottle.
I found the video amusing, but there is a serious message behind
his charity, which is raising money to bring clean water to
impoverished parts of the world.
After Matt Damon did this video, reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman of
USA Today wrote about his effort and other charitable connections
between water and Christmas. It was called
“Charities give Christmas gift of water.”
A totally different connection between water and Christmas was
provided by a bunch of water-sports enthusiasts who got together on
the Potomac River on Christmas Eve last year to do their thing
dressed as Santa, his reindeer and the Grinch. AFP provides the
video on YouTube.
Some of you will enjoy this video of a dog who received an
unusual Christmas gift. His owners piled up plastic water bottles
to form a large triangle on the floor and let the dog go at it. In
typical form, the energetic dog quickly demolished the structure
and began chewing on one of the bottles.
As an added bonus, I’ve reprieved some silly Christmas riddles
Water Ways entry posted three years ago. I hope they can bring
you a smile. If you know a good Christmas riddle (a clean one,
please) feel free to add it in the comment section below.
What do you get if Santa goes down the chimney when a
fire is lit? Crisp Kringle
What do you have in December that’s not in any other
month? The letter “D”
Where do snowmen go to dance? A snow ball
What do you call people who are afraid of Santa
What do you call an old snowman? Water!
Did Rudolph go to a regular school? No, he was elf-taught
What do you get when you cross a snowman with a
Why was Santa’s little helper depressed? He had low elf esteem
Why does Scrooge love all of the reindeer? Because every buck is dear to him
What do you call Santa when he has no
money? Saint “Nickel”-less
What do you sing at a snowman’s birthday
party? Freeze a jolly good fellow!
What happened when the snowgirl broke up with the
snowboy ? She gave him the cold shoulder
Hearing reviews about actor Matt Damon’s performance in the
upcoming sci-fi thriller “Elysium”
reminded me to check on Damon’s progress with water.org, the organization he
co-founded to help bring clean water to all parts of the world.
Clean water is a life-and-death issue in many third-world
countries. But Damon has strategically avoided preaching to people
in his fund-raising campaign for clean water. Instead, he is using
humor quite effectively, I think, which is why I found a place for
Water Ways last Christmas.
Since then, Matt has come out with some new videos, including
the one shown on this page that features the Live Prude Girls of
Matt Damon also lends his
voice to a cartoon, which brings out some of the same issues.
After watching these videos, you will know that more people have
cell phones than access to clean water, along with other facts that
frame the need for action.
Damon talks about World Toilet Day being Nov. 19. I’m not sure
if he invented that day or if he plans to do something special for
the occasion, but I’ll stay tuned and bring you the latest.
Meanwhile, a profile of Matt Damon by Decca Aitkenhead was
published Friday in
The Guardian. The article talks about his personal life, his
new movie and his approach to charities, including water.org.
As for the accomplishments of water.org, check out the Projects Page to see what the
organization has been doing.
This week, I looked for some interesting facts about water and
created the following 20-question quiz. Find the answers below
along with the various sources of the information.
1. If an adult’s body is 70 percent water, what
percentage of water is an infant’s body?
A) 60 percent
B) 70 percent
C) 80 percent
D) 90 percent
2. How much of the Earth’s surface is covered by
A) 60-65 percent
B) 70-75 percent
C) 80-85 percent
D) 90-95 percent
3) An average person uses from 80 to 100 gallons of
water a day. Excluding lawn-watering, the largest water use by an
individual results from:
A) Flushing the toilet
B) Cooking and drinking
C) Taking a bath or shower
D) Water fights Continue reading →
If you like the first-place winner in the coloring contest for
National Drinking Water Week, then check out the other three
winners at the bottom of this entry. Click “Read the rest of this
Jacquelynn Gehring, a second-grade student in Sheri Stambaugh’s
class at Crownhill Elementary School, was named the top winner in a
recent coloring contest sponsored by the city of Bremerton.
The contest was promoted as part of National Drinking Water
Week. This year’s theme was “Water is Important to Me Every
Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent presented awards to the winning
students at a City Council meeting on May 16.
The other winners are Alaura Mercereau, second-place, and Emalee
Wheaton, third place, both from Crownhill. An honorable mention was
awarded to Destiny Hoaeae from Naval Avenue Elementary School.
Their pictures will be entered into a national Drinking Water
Week contest sponsored by the American Water Works Association.
Kathleen Cahall, Bremerton’s water resources manager, has done a
good job promoting National Drinking Water Week, a time to
recognize actions at the local, state and national levels that
ensure that we have the cleanest water in the world.
Kathleen offered this comment in a news release:
“Drinking Water Week is an opportunity to focus on the
importance of water, which is too easily overlooked. A safe,
reliable water supply is essential to the success of any community.
In addition to keeping us healthy, safe water also supports the
economy, provides fire protection and provides us with the high
quality of life we enjoy.”
This week is National Drinking Water Week, a chance to recognize
the high quality of water we drink in the United States and how we
built and maintain the amazing storage and piping networks.
The video at right shows some interesting pictures of water
systems in Kitsap County. It takes a bit of reading to get through
it, but the video reminds us that the area — and most areas —
started out with many surface-water systems and now relies mostly
Drinking Water Week is a chance to review the water quality of
our own drinking water, at least for those of us on public water
systems. The EPA requires most systems to provide information to
their customers once a year. Accessing this information at other
times is not always easy, although most of the larger systems post
the required water-quality data on their websites.